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Tips on Online & Local Back-Up

- by Megan Pierson

Imagine for a moment that one day you go to work to find that all your company data – meaning your email, your Word and Excel documents, PDFs, databases, contact lists, accounting data, billing information, etc. – has simply vanished, permanently. Gone is everything that makes your company what it is and that has allowed it to operate and grow as a business since its inception. Of companies that lost data, approximately 33% lost sales, 20% lost customers, and 25% claimed the data loss caused severe disruptions to the company.

How will your company recover? Are you going to recreate years’ worth of data in a few months, all the while trying to support and manage your current business obligations? For most businesses, small, medium or large, this will probably be too much to bear – 90% of all companies that suffer a major data loss go out of business within two years (London Chamber of Commerce).

A business without a backup and recovery strategy is asking for trouble and taking an unnecessary risk. IT staff should never allow this to happen. There are no excuses; backups should be given as much importance as the overall protection of the organization’s network.

Permanently losing data is a completely preventable disaster, all it takes is a backup and recovery strategy.

The irony is that most businesses recognize the importance of having backups. A recent survey of small and medium-sized enterprises by Rubicon Consulting rated backup as their second-highest computing priority, after defense against viruses and other malware; and ahead of issues like reducing costs and deploying new computers. Yet nearly 33% of companies surveyed do nothing to back up their data.

There are many ways a business can set itself up for crippling data loss. Not conducting regular backups: Roughly 33% of businesses do not have a backup strategy in place. For many that do, the words “thorough” and “complete” do not define their data backup strategy. Some backup their hard drives once a week, if they remember. 20% of companies do not even backup their servers.

Are you relying on your employees? In a growing number of businesses critical data is often stored on individual employee’s desktops or laptops.  Businesses rely on employees to back up their own data, usually, without direction or advice.  The result is more often than not that backups do not take place, in which case, a single failed hard drive or stolen laptop can spell utter disaster to a business.

Not confirming backups: One more oversight that can lead to a permanent data loss is not testing the ability of the organization to recover data. Backups are only as good as the ability to recover data from them. Unless an organization routinely confirms its backups, and its ability to recover lost data with a rigorous testing program, the backup strategy, if one exists may be for nothing. Yet despite this logic, 34% of companies NEVER test their backups and 77% of those who have tested their backups have discovered failed backups before they were needed (US Department of Trade& Industry).

Keeping backup’s onsite: A backup plan is only as good as your ability to recover the data, and one of the most common mistakes is to store the backup at the same location as the original data. If the business is struck by fire, natural disaster or a malicious employee, not only is the data lost but the backup as well.

Some businesses will say the idea of a good backup strategy is essential, but fail when it comes to providing the necessary resources.

So what makes an effective data backup strategy? The first step is knowing what needs to be backed up, including privacy regulations such as HIPPA, which have specific backup requirements. Businesses should also determine whether data should be backed up or archived. Most businesses do both. Backups are copies of active data for short-term use and are frequently overwritten with updated versions. Archives, on the other hand, contain static data, such as inactive document files and old emails.


An effective data backup plan consists of five parts:

Plan for data backup

Decide what data needs to be backed up.

Decide where to keep the backup.

Store a full back up at another location or online to protect against fire, theft or other disaster.

If the data are critical it may be a good idea to have a quarterly and yearly backup as well so that you can recover files that may have been deleted, but not discovered until months later.

Begin a backup routine

Make backing up a part of the normal scheduled daily tasks.

Don’t rely on anyone else to back data.

Wherever possible automate the backup process.


Tailor the backup strategy to business needs

To determine the best schedule for data backup, it is important to know how often the data changes. If data changes weekly, a daily backup might be overkill. If there is critical data that updates every hour, it may be necessary to back up several times a day.

Full backups can be supplemented by incremental backups. An incremental backup will only back up files that have changed since the last full backup and are normally much quicker than a full backup.


Test the backup periodically

To ensure that backups are protecting you; periodically test the backup jobs by attempting to restore them to an alternate location. This will bring out any flaws or corrupt data before it is too late.

Most backup applications also have a “backup log” or generate a “backup report” that can quickly identify any problems or skipped files in the backup job. Be sure to review these logs every time backups are complete, for anything suspicious.

Have at least three different backups of data

A backup is more than simply moving email, financial documents or other important files off to an external hard drive or removable disk. Simply moving data from one location to another isn’t giving you any extra protection in case disaster strikes. If there aren’t at least two separate copies of your data, it isn’t a backup at all.

While a single backup may be a good start (two copies of irreplaceable files), there is still some risk for data loss, especially if both copies are kept in the same location.

The best protection against data loss, especially from catastrophic events, is having at least three copies of your data (the original files, an easily-accessible backup, and an offsite or online copy of your backup). While some large companies may use dedicated off-site data storage services for this, a business doesn’t have to be big to have three copies of your data. Even something as simple as using an inexpensive online backup service to keep a third copy of the data is sufficient.


Every day without a good backup strategy is like playing a game of Russian roulette and risking the future existence of your business. Any business that cares about the security of its data or future of their company needs to have an effective backup strategy to guard against inevitable data loss. Given the overall negative impact permanent data loss can have on a company, up to and including its bankruptcy, a data backup and recovery strategy that is effective is essential.